Jake walked into the kitchen and said, “There is a man at the gate.”
I asked, “Do you know what he wants, Jake?”
Jake replied, “He wants food.”
I washed my hands and set aside the food I was preparing for dinner. I walked out to the gate that separates our driveway from the street. Every home in our neighborhood has some kind of walled, fenced, or gated barrier that serves as a shield to threats of robbery, thievery, vandalism, or other kinds of offenses.
The man who was there had sat down in a shaded and sheltered area to escape the strong and relentless African sun. He stood up as I approached. He introduced himself as William. He asked for food and some clothing if we had it.
I asked William if he was thirsty and he gushed in response, “Yes!”
I told him I would return shortly. I walked back to the house to prepare some sandwiches, gather some fruit, and draw some water for the man. I also found some clothing that our boys had outgrown.
As I walked back to William, he rose again. I handed him the packet of food, the water bottle, and the sack of clothes over the gate. William’s eyes locked with mine as he received his gifts and said, “Thank you.”
I replied, “You are welcome. Go well and may God bless you.”
William turned from me then, and continued to walk on his way.
Since arriving back in Johannesburg eleven days ago, our family has had five different beggars at our gate. The beggars are usually men. They see our boys playing outside and call to them and ask to see the ‘mama’ or ‘boss’ of the house. When John and I greet them and assist, our exchanges are usually brief. Sometimes we learn a bit more of their story, but usually, the men are in immediate need of something and hope we will oblige their need.
John and I made a decision years ago, that if anyone approached our gate in need, they would be given food and water. We have found that 99.9% of the time that this basic need is appreciated and usually warranted.
How do we know that?
We see it.
These men and women, once given their food and water, either sit down in front of our house, or move away down the street a little distance to sit and eat and drink. Right there. Right then.
For many days now, in light of these encounters, I have camped on the third verse from Romans 12.
“For by the grace given to me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” NIV Romans 12:3
Each day, a different phrase has come to the forefront of my thoughts and reflections….
For by the grace given to me
Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought
Think of yourself with sober judgment
In accordance with the measure of faith God has given you
As I have contemplated these words, I consider the rich and abundant grace that has been poured so generously into my life and being.
This abundant grace flows out of Christ’s mercy and love into my heart and into my life. Yet, this amazing grace cannot remain there. This beautiful and generous grace was never meant to pool and accumulate in my heart; to be hoarded and guarded. No. This life-giving grace was meant to be poured out to others and become as natural a rhythm as the inhale and exhale of my breath.
Paul exhorts me to not think of myself too highly. He also challenges me to assess myself – all of my strengths and weaknesses, my successes and failures, my high points and my low points, my pure thoughts and my “I-don’t-really-like-that-I-think-that-way” thoughts, etc. – in a conscientious and circumspect way. For by the gracious hand of God, I live on the other side of the gate.
This gate serves as a barrier and a protection against thieves and robbers. This is the insular reality in which we live. Yet, this gate does not have to serve as barrier against need and want – nor of grace and compassion.
I do not want this gate and the walls that surround our property to make me indifferent to the suffering of man. Nor do I want the gate and walls that have been built to protect me, to serve as an obstacle to the streams of grace that my Savior, Jesus Christ, has given me. I want to pour out the grace and mercy of Christ into the hearts and lives of those I encounter; no matter how these different people may come to me in life.
When I was in Oregon recently, no one came to beg at my parents’ door. To find beggars in the Portland metro area, one would need to go to a local church where the homeless may find food and shelter for the night, or highway on-and-off ramps to see men and women holding up signs asking for food, money or jobs, or go to downtown Portland where nearly countless street corners had someone sitting or standing in want. To meet such brazen need, one would have to travel to it.
Not so, here in Johannesburg.
I only have to walk outside my house, down my driveway to the gate that separates the outside world from the gracious sanctuary of our home. It is here that need and want await.
By the grace given me, I choose to respond.
For my God has also given me an amazing measure of faith upon which to act and to trust Him.
In turn, I desire the gifts of grace that my God has given me and the measure of faith that is offered me to not only increase, but overflow into the lives of those my God brings my way. I desire the name of Jesus Christ to be known so that He will be praised inside and outside of my gated experience.
By the grace and measure of faith God has given you, how will you respond to the needs in your context?
It is my prayer that you will not be indifferent to the needs that exist around you. I pray that you will allow the gift of grace will overflow from your heart to others.
May we each ask of ourselves: what does the amazing and generous grace of Jesus Christ require of us today?